Today is (was?) her birthday. Yesterday, I would have been searching for the perfect gift. Finding a gift, I admit, is not one of my strengths. I am miserable at gift giving — I wait until the last minute. For my Mom, not only did I wait until the last minute, but I would also get her, really, the last thing she wanted. Why did I get her something that was already, and still is, growing in abundance, under her steady green thumb? Instead of flowers, I think what she really wanted, was my time. A gift that I thought I did not have the luxury to give.
Two years ago her birthday was only more than a month away from her death. Which, I might add, I did not see coming. I ordered flowers — early — this time. The flowers arrived, but they were dead. I did have them replaced, of course. But, I know I let her down. I could hear it in her voice — but I didn’t know what to do to fix things.
The next time we talked, it was Sunday — lunch time. We just got home from vacation the day before. I know she wished we had invited her to come with us. I should have. I called her for her recipe for vegetable soup. I can’t remember what I wanted to know — something about tomatoes? — but I remember at the end, she suggested that I add cabbage. I hadn’t remembered this. Cooked cabbage in her vegetable soup is good. I added it. This was our last conversation. After that, the words went something like this: “can you hear me,” “please get better,” and “I love you.”
We didn’t talk about my poor choice in gift-giving. She didn’t tell me she wanted to see more of me. We let it all go unsaid. We could have, eventually, laughed this off.
This haunted me. Words of comfort were offered, nothing helped. The tears that flowed from my eyes over the next months, burned my cheeks.
It took me awhile after her funeral, to bring myself up to the task of choosing her gravestone. Almost as if my legs were pulled out from beneath me, I couldn’t imagine marching through the rest of my days — years — without her. I was also her executrix, and her estate was a legal nightmare. I had meetings to go to, sitters to arrange, and cold, unfriendly-certified letters to sign for. The last thing my nerves could take was a gravestone selection.
One night, I was sitting at the table reading a book (can’t remember what it was), while my two oldest boys were doing homework. I found a passage, which may be familiar to you, but was new to me. As I read, my boys quietly and quickly left the table, and went over to Dad, and whispered, “Why is she crying again?”
The words I read gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to order her gravestone. My brother and I agreed, it was worth the extra money to have the whole poem engraved. If you think about it – this stone will endure longer than her life. Is it corny? Yes, maybe? But when you’re grieving, sometimes you need a little extra help from “author unknown” to show you the way. Hopefully, now she understands my heart was in the right place, and she can accept the flowers she so deserved.
If roses grow in Heaven,
Lord, please pick a bunch for me,
Place them in my Mother’s arms
and tell her they’re from me.
Tell her that I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for a while.
Because remembering her is easy,
I do it everyday,
but there’s an ache within my heart
that will never go away.
I’m not sure what to say, but you said so much so well I’ll just stick with saying “this was well-written and made me think”
Hope that’s not too trite, but I enjoyed reading this.
Okay, Susie…I am bawling. You kind of hit me close to the heart there. My mother’s birthday was a few days ago. She is still alive. But fighting with cancer.
Yup..it’s the time that is loved the best. Not the gifts, but the time.
I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. Bless you for sharing this.
If the poem felt right Susie, then it helped you. I’m sorry hun…I can’t even imagine… I believe though that your mother knows the depth of your love, considering that she is pure love herself now.
Well written and thoughtful, makes me appreciate the time I do have with my mother. We never know how long we really have with each other, do we? What a nice poem to have on the stone.
I have to believe that, at the end of our lives, our spirit is filled with the feelings of love and connection we made with the people we hold dearest and the rest…well, I have to believe the rest falls away. Including inadequate gifts.
My grandmother taught me to always add cabbage to vegetable soup and yes, I agree that it is very good.
Thank you for inspiring me to appreciate the time I have with my loved ones, today.
The strange part is, that we’re going to be the elderly mothers eventually, I sure hope wise compassion is something that develops naturally as our children grow away from us in order to make their own way in the world. I have no doubts that her soul knew, and knows, your abundance of love for her susiej.
I’ve told you in private e-mail what my heart feels friend. This was a good post. &heart;
A touching and beautiful post.
If you think about it Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this stone will endure longer than her life. No, there, SusieJ, you are wrong. You are rarely wrong, but in this you are. Your mother’s soul is her life, not the overcoat of a body she wore. That gets discarded when the soul returns to the source. Her life is lived every minute of every day in you, your brother and your children. Her love and good deeds, her kindness, her comforts last forever and reverberate through time. The only thing that is forever is Love. This is something I know. It does not bring her physical presence to you, the tactile isn’t there, but she’s there always, never apart from her beloved daughter. Your heartache is a measure of your love. It isn’t possible to love without this other side of it, the loss and the grief. The two go together and that is one of the paradoxes of being.
Nothing to add here other than that you made me think in turn. And that you can’t undervalue the everyday things, like cabbage in soup. Or what they mean
Having lost a beloved parent without warning, I deeply understand…
It’s funny–I can always tell the people who’ve lost a parent, because they’re the ones who don’t try to say anything. They realize there’s nothing they can say to help. They know the best thing they can do is to just be there for you–often in silence.
Time really is the most precious gift we can give anyone.
Aww Susie, I’m crying but it feels good.
There is nothing we can really do about lost time. But in time, wounds heal.
Sending you my hugs
It’s amazing – the things that fill our heads and hearts and what heals us as we grieve. I am so sorry for your loss, but I am so glad you shared this.
Susie, I loved the poem, and the story. I know sadness is not something that is loved, but the fact that you could tell it in such a way as to touch my heart. Well, that I loved! I have lost both of my parents, and there are so many shoulda-coulda-woulda’s that it can become so much that it replaces all of the things we loved and remember! You are a beautiful person, and she is watching over you and knows your heart.
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I have to say this really, really touched me!
I know ‘time’ is the one thing I really struggle with. Life seems so busy and I mean to call my Grandma and visit but I just don’t do it and I know it’s the one thing that would make her the happiest. I’ve tried to call her and she has a tendency not to hear her phone in her nursing home and then I forget to try calling back. I’m going to visit her on Sunday – thanks for reminding me that ‘time’ is something that should be given, for we really never know how much of it we each have.
It touched me in another way as well. I’m having such terrible arguments with my teenage daughter. She screams at me and says horrible things about dumping me in a nursing home etc. and I find I am ill prepared as to handle these situations and they go from bad to worse.
It feels like I’ll never have a daughter who feels like this about me. I hope she matures into a lovely young lady one day.
Teamouse. My relationship with my Mother had it’s ups and downs. There were times that things were very rough. But, in the end — nothing else mattered except the love. I wish I had loved her more while she was here, but like my Father said, it’s still never to late to do that.
Your father is very right!
I do hope my relationship grows better with my daughter – I didn’t have a great childhood with my mom but we have turned into friends. We still have our moments but we do love each other.
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SusieJ this is so beautiful. Although I still have both my parents, losing them one day is one of my nightmares. So I try my best to let them know how important they are to me and how much I love them. Like you, time is a luxury I cannot always afford. And reading your told me I should make time now, while I still can. Thank you for this beautiful post.
wow, i just got off the phone with my brother who had to call my dad to get my mom’s birth “date” again (i can’t believe i am admiting this!!!). it’s like my brother and i can never get it right (is it the 13th or 14th??) but my mom always plans trips around her birthday and always plays it down and….after reading this i am realizing she has just always been a “mom” about it when in reality i should be really celebrating her birthday more. luckily this year i made the decision to buy my mom a slightly extravagant gift i couldnt afford for mothers day and she really flipped out, i could tell she felt special. this birthday i will do more than just the handmade kid cards and plant and make her something just for her (and i will write down the date in my book!)…as a side note, we have 5 family birthdays all around the same time and we just mix up the numbers!!! dont be tooooo hard on me! 🙂
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The poem is beautiful, and, though I didn’t have the honor of knowing your mother I believe she’s looking down upon you now, smiling, to let you know that she’s always know that your heart was always in the right place.
Too many people come and gone from our lives, all leaving with too many things left unsaid. At barely 30 years old, I’ve lost both my father, and my grandmother on his side, who raised me most of the time after my father passed. I spent too many days as a teen lamenting that I hadn’t told my Dad I loved him much before he died, so much that as my grandmother passed before my eyes, I had told her so much I sounded like a broken record.
The best thing you can do is realize that something will always be left unsaid, and we can always question what WAS said… it’s our station in life as survivors to make sure we say what we can from now on, and to know that those who’ve gone before us simply look upon us now with fondness… and that’s how we should look back up at them.
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Beautiful. She has the most precious headstone thanks to you.
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